How To Remove a Tick From Your Skin

A step-by-step guide for what to do when it comes to tick bites and tick-borne illnesses.

Warm weather can invite you to spend more time outdoors, but it can also increase your risk of getting bitten by ticks. These small insects can carry a variety of diseases ranging from Lyme disease to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, depending on the tick species.

When a tick bites into your skin and begins feeding, the insects swell up and can transmit bacteria, viruses, or parasites. For some illnesses, like Lyme disease, it takes 36 to 48 hours for the harmful bacterium to be passed to the host. It is important to remove ticks as early as possible to avoid transmission.

How To Remove a Tick

You should check yourself and your pets often for ticks. If you do find a tick attached to yourself or a pet, here's how to remove a tick with a pair of tweezers.

1. Gather Your Materials

As soon as you discover a tick that's attached itself to your skin, grab a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, a cotton ball, and some rubbing alcohol. Before removing the tick, sterilize the tweezers with the rubbing alcohol.

2. Pull the Tick off With Even Pressure

Use the tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and simply pull it straight out with even pressure; don't yank or twist. If part of the tick stays in your skin after you pull it out with tweezers, try not to worry too much about it. If you leave it alone, it will come out and heal on its own.

After removing the tick, treat the bite with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

If you remove a tick soon after it attaches, chances are low that you'll be infected with anything, since it usually takes a few hours for them to begin feeding.

3. Get Rid of the Tick

You'll want to make sure the tick is disposed of properly so that it can't bite someone else. There are a few ways to do this. You can:

  • Flush the tick down the toilet
  • Seal it in a bag or container
  • Put it in alcohol

Some people consider keeping the tick and testing it after they have removed it. This is not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you've been infected, you would likely notice symptoms before you got any test results back. Furthermore, even if a tick tests positive for a disease, that does not necessarily mean you were infected with it.

4. Monitor Your Symptoms

Keep an eye on it for several weeks to make sure you don't develop a bulls-eye rash, which could indicate Lyme disease. Remember that not everyone gets a rash with Lyme disease but 70–80% of people who have Lyme disease do.

Pay attention to your overall health, as well. Contact a healthcare provider if you develop symptoms of tickborne diseases such as:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Rash

Symptoms may be mistaken for the flu or common cold since they are similar. If you develop symptoms after a tick bite, see a healthcare provider so they can diagnose you.

5. Be Prepared

During tick season, it may be helpful to have a kit full of supplies, like tweezers and rubbing alcohol, at the ready. The sooner the tick is removed, the lower your risk for developing tick-related disease so having a kit on hand will make the tick removal process faster.

What To Avoid

There are plenty of home remedies that people try to remove ticks, but some of them are not recommended.

Some people use petroleum jelly, nail polish, or heat to get the tick to detach from the skin, but this isn't recommended. These tricks can take time and waiting for the tick to detach just leaves the tick on your skin for a longer period of time. Instead, get the tick off as soon as you can.

There's also no reason to avoid the outdoors. There are plenty of precautions you can take to keep yourself tick-free such as:

  • Using tick or insect repellant
  • Checking your body for ticks after being outside
  • Wearing long pants and long sleeves outdoors
  • Remove your clothes after being outside

The best thing you can do to stay safe is take these precautions and keep an eye out for symptoms of tick-related diseases.

A Quick Review

In order to remove a tick bite you'll need to gather supplies, pull off the tick with even pressure, dispose of the tick, monitor yourself for any symptoms of tick-borne illnesses, and be prepared for the next time a tick may attach itself to you or a pet.

There are plenty of precautions you can take to avoid tick bites—like wearing long sleeves and applying insect repellant—but not every tick bite is preventable. Just make sure to keep an eye on your symptoms and see a healthcare provider if you think you may have a tick-borne illness.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease transmission.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Removing a tick.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease signs and symptoms.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of tickborne illness.

  5. National Library of Medicine. Tick removal.

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